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BC’s natural gas supply is limited

Due to the rupture of an Enbridge-owned natural gas transmission pipeline on October 9, 2018, BC is facing a shortfall of natural gas this winter.

While the pipeline has been repaired and returned to service, it’s important to note that Enbridge plans to operate their transmission system at a reduced capacity for the next few months, starting at about 55 per cent capacity and gradually ramping up to 80 per cent by the end of November. With the Enbridge system operating at its current capacity, we may not have sufficient natural gas supply to serve our customers through the winter.

Here’s FortisBC CEO Roger Dall’Antonia explaining why it’s important for all customers to continue to conserve.


Enbridge, as the owner and operator of the transmission pipeline, is continuing work to further validate the integrity of their entire transmission system, before returning it to full operating capacity. The National Energy Board holds the regulatory authority to mandate limits on pipeline operating pressure and must approve any planned increases in Enbridge’s pipeline pressure.

How FortisBC is responding for our customers

FortisBC is doing everything possible to ensure natural gas is available for our customers, including bringing gas from Alberta through our Southern Crossing pipeline, securing additional natural gas on the open marketplace, working with our industrial customers to help them decrease their natural gas use and switching our compressed natural gas-powered vehicles over to gasoline for the winter.

FortisBC also owns a number of natural gas storage facilities located throughout BC and the United States that can be accessed during times of high demand, but the amount of gas they can store is limited.

What does this mean for customers?

Because BC’s natural gas supply will be limited over the coming months, we are asking all our customers, from homeowners and stratas, to businesses and municipal buildings, to continue to focus on conservation measures to help ensure a sufficient supply of natural gas is available for customers through this winter.

If customers can continue to reduce their use of natural gas where possible now, this will help to replenish storage options to help offset the difference in availability later.

The following video explains how FortisBC’s natural gas system works and why it’s important for everyone to reduce their use.  

 

How can I reduce my natural gas use?

We recognize as the colder temperatures set in, it will become more challenging for everyone to reduce their use of natural gas. Here are some simple ways to help you reduce your consumption.

 

​Turn down the th​ermostat

  • Where possible we’re asking customers to set your thermostat between 18 – 20 °C when home and awake and no more than 17 °C when out or asleep. 

​Wear a​ sweater 

  • The simplest way to stay warm is to reach for a sweater instead of the thermostat. If you’re still cold, blankets and socks are a great way to insulate you against the chill.

​Heat only the rooms ​you’re in

  • Close warm air supply registers in rooms you’re not using. Avoid heating non-insulated spaces such as a garage, crawl space, attic or storage shed. 

​Take shorte​r showers

  • Using less hot water will help conserve our natural gas supply. Limit daily showers to five minutes and you’ll save water and reduce your natural gas use. 

​Dishwasher

  • Use the energy​-saving mode when your dishes are less dirty.
  • Run your dishwasher only when it's full.

​Clothes washer/dryer  

  • Wash laundry in cold water. 
  • Always wash full loads to help save energy.
  • Use lower heat settings on your natural gas dryer, such as permanent press.

​Window coverings  

  • On sunny days, take advantage of Mother Nature by opening blinds or curtains to warm up.

​Natural gas fireplace  

  • Natural gas fireplaces can still be used to efficiently heat the room you’re in. Save energy by turning down the thermostat in the rest of the house and not heating areas that no one is using.

How your efforts to reduce natural gas use can add up

We’re all in this together and every little bit counts. Here are a few ways that small changes can add up.

Residential

  • Turning down the thermostat an additional three degrees when you need heat, can save an average of eight gigajoules of natural gas per year. If 11 households did this simple action it could equal enough natural gas to heat one home for a year.1
  • If each member of a four-person household were to shorten their daily shower time by two minutes, almost five gigajoules of natural gas would be saved per year. If a community of 100,000 households did the same, it would save enough natural gas to provide space heating for almost 5,000 homes for a year.2

Business

  • If a 23,000 square foot office lowered its thermostat by three degrees during office hours, it would save enough natural gas to provide space heating for one household for a year.3
  • If just one per cent of BC’s restaurants (about 140 restaurants) turned off one of their decorative natural gas fireplaces during the heating season, it would save enough natural gas to heat about 156 homes for a year.4
 

 Frequently asked questions

 
Why is BC’s natural gas system so reliant on one pipeline?

FortisBC’s gas system is fed predominantly by two Enbridge transmission pipelines coming from Northern BC, with as much as 70 per cent of BC’s natural gas being moved through Enbridge’s pipelines. Enbridge owns a second pipeline that was not damaged, but is also operating at a reduced capacity to ensure the safety of their entire system.

We are working hard to bring additional sources of natural gas into our system from the open market as well as through our Southern Crossing pipeline, which delivers natural gas from Alberta.

If Enbridge’s pipeline is repaired, why is it only operating at 80 per cent capacity?

All pipelines have a top capacity that they can operate at. Operators are regulated to stay within those capacities.

In cases such as this, when a pipeline has been damaged, operating pressures are often limited for a period of time to ensure that all repairs were successful.

When will Enbridge’s transmission system be operating at full capacity?

​Enbridge is working to validate the integrity of their entire transmission system before returning it to full operating capacity. Enbridge has stated that they plan to operate their transmission system at 80 per cent capacity for the next several months.

What caused the pipeline to rupture?

At this time, it is still unclear what caused Enbridge’s pipeline to rupture. The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating, with support from Enbridge and the National Energy Board. The RCMP has determined the rupture was not criminal in nature.

No FortisBC infrastructure was damaged and we are confident in the integrity of our system, which has an excellent safety record. We monitor our system 24-hours a day, 365 days a year and conduct regular inspections of our natural gas system to prevent any potential risk to our pipelines.

How do I know which of my appliances use natural gas?

​The best way to identify whether you have gas is by checking your house meter for a FortisBC tag. Receiving a bill from FortisBC with a “Natural Gas” label would also indicate that at least one of your appliances uses natural gas.

The simplest way to determine if your furnace or water heater is gas is to check the front of the heating unit, which would have a small window on the front where you will see a blue flame (the pilot light) glowing.

Stay informed about BC’s natural gas supply

Read the most recent edition of our Energy Moment enewsletter and subscribe for updates.

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Customer contact centre: 1-888-224-2710

Industrial customers contact your Key Account Manager.

Media contacts (24 hours): 1-855-FBC-NEWS or (1-855-322-6397)


1 Savings are approximate, assuming a thermostat setback of an additional three degrees for when heat is needed in a natural gas heated 2,300 - 2,600 square foot home located in a FortisBC service area. On average, a home this size consumes 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually for space heating.

2 Savings are approximate, assuming a 7.6 litre per minute showerhead in a four person home with a standard efficiency natural gas storage tank water heater. Assumes a home consumes 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually for space heating.

3 Assumes additional setback of three degrees for 10 hours each weekday, saving 90 gigajoules of natural gas over the heating season, enough to heat one average sized home for a year. 

4 A natural gas fireplace turned on 13 hours per day during the heating season would use 100 gigajoules of natural gas per year. Savings achieved when 140 restaurants turn off fireplaces saving approximately, 14,000 gigajoules of natural gas, enough to provide space heating for 156 average size homes in a FortisBC service area.